An October 2002 trip
to Khon Kaen by markiemark
Quote: Situated in northeast Thailand, the 4th largest city in the country, Khon Kaen was where I settled for a few days after returning from Laos. A modern city with all the conveniences, it’s also the center of the Isan region & a base for exploring some great national parks.
Khan Kaen is very clean and easy to get around with a simple transport system but is very busy with traffic all day. It doesn’t have any major tourist attractions however but there are a few things in and around town and the market area is very interesting.
Khon Kaen really does have the grottiest budget hotels I’ve seen in my five months in Thailand! After looking at two very tatty hotels and one nice (a little dear for me), I’d almost ran out of budget options in my guidebook when I saw a simple sign "guesthouse 100B per day" pointing down a narrow alley opposite the Roma Hotel on Thanon Klang Meaung. This led to a cluttered courtyard in which there was a long, single-storey building divided into six rooms. The room I looked at was huge with a double bed, fan, two wardrobes, a cabinet, shelves, and a WC. Although the shower was bucket-style, this represented a bargain for 100B a day. One problem; it was already occupied! Well, it was until Madela moved out all the clothes belonging to the now previous tenant! It turned out that all the rooms are occupied by Thai families or friends of Madela’s on the understanding that they make room for any paying guests that show up. The young girl I displaced bunked in with her friend three doors down! Madela was a very nice lady despite our Thai/English communication problems.
On my second day, I returned to my room to find it cleaned, the bedsheets changed and six bottles of water left for me. Two days later, I again came back to this and any clothes left laying around had been washed as well! When I needed petrol for my camping stove, Madela leapt onto her motorbike to get it for me, and there was a constant supply of tea bought to me in a good old-fashioned tea-pot!
While certainly not your run-of-the-mill guesthouse, this was one of the friendliest and most comfortable I’ve stayed at in a long time.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on December 25, 2002
Thanon Klang Meuang
Khon Kaen, Thailand
It costs 30B to get in and the museum is open from 9am to 4pm Wednesday through Sunday. It helps to while away an hour or so, but it’s certainly not worth stopping in Khon Kaen for!
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on December 25, 2002
Khon Kaen National Museum
Khon Kaen, Thailand
I wasn’t sure what to expect after reading the leaflet given to me at the tourist police office. From the leaflet, it looked like a bit of a circus show inviting tourists to watch the handlers kiss the snakes, dance with them, and even put the snakes’ heads in their mouths! In fact, there are two of these ‘circuses’ in the village: the Kok Sa-Nga Zoo Society and the King Cobra Club Of Thailand. The Zoo Society I walked past looked like just a ramshackle collection of wooden huts around a small stage with big speakers. The King Cobra Club was actually pretty much the same on a bigger scale. Rows and rows of chairs were laid out by the stage, clearly in anticipation of bus tours. The cobras themselves were housed in large cages, as were a couple of pythons, crocodiles, and lizards. If you want to see a performance, you have to wait for a group to show up and then contribute a 'donation.' I wasn’t too keen on seeing what the photographs around the place confirmed as a circus show, so I left.
I think the quiet walk through very rural Kok Sa-Nga to and from the main road was a lot more enjoyable than the Cobra Club. It really begs to be said, but it was, in my opinion, a load of old cobras!
Member Rating 1 out of 5 on December 25, 2002
King Cobra Village
Kok Sa-Nga, Khon Kaen
Khon Kaen, Thailand
Attraction | "Khon Kaen's Day & Night Markets"
A few streets further north, the night market is found. At around 5pm stalls start to appear on Klang Meuang Road north of the post office and Ruenrom Road is completely taken over by rows and rows of stalls, tables and chairs - so many, there’s barely space to walk! You name it, you can have it barbecued, baked, fried, boiled, or even raw! You can get your food served in a plastic bag to take away, too. It’s a great place to wander around even if you don’t eat here.
Khon Kaen's day & night markets
Khon Kaen, Thailand
Attraction | "Phu Pha Maan National Park"
From the park entrance on route 201, it’s 5km to the park headquarters and visitor centre. I got a lift on a park ranger’s motorbike to save me the hot walk. The visitor centre and park headquarters are located on very well-tended, landscaped grounds, and the communal toilets by the campground are spotlessly clean. One reason for this is that Phu Pha Maan is very rarely visited, being sandwiched between two big, well-known parks: Phu Kradung and Nam Nao. After pitching my tent, I took a walk along the nature trail that took me through mostly bamboo forest. The track is not well-maintained, and a lot of tree-fall and overgrowth made the way very hard to find sometimes, but the reward for persistence is a scramble up the rocky mountain to a lovely view point over the park. From here, I could see that a lot of the park is actually cultivated land. The park is protecting the limestone and granite cliffs that rise up from this flat area and the woodland on the lower slopes that merge with Phu Kradung National Park further north.
The major point of interest here is the many caves in these sheer cliffs, so on my second day, I started out early to walk the 8km to see some of these. The walk was mostly through grassland and sweetcorn fields that turned to forest as I got nearer to the cliffs. There are many butterflies along the way and a few birds to spot if you have patience and binoculars. The showpieces of Lai Thong Cave are the ancient cave paintings. The simple figures are of humans painted in red above the main cave entrance while inside is a beautiful collection of stalagmites and stalagtites.
A better selection can be seen a further 1.5km scramble at Pa Ya Nakarach cave. A very narrow entrance leads into a veritable auditorium. The glitter stalagmites I expected were conspicuous in their absence. Possibly, I didn’t walk far enough inside. Having negotiated some small wooden ladders to get to the cave floor, I walked a little way in with my cheap Chinese torch until my childhood fear of the dark overtook me and I went back the way I came! Apparently, there are a number of large chambers deeper inside, maybe with glitter!
It’s quite a hot hike there and back, but I picked up a friend. A dog appeared from a farmer’s yard near the caves and DIDN’T bark at me! It led me up to the caves, followed me the 8km back to park headquarters, and then faithfully followed me everywhere I went - even sleeping outside my tent for the night! Apart from the 200B entry fee, I wasn’t charged anything for camping, but there is nowhere to eat at the park.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 25, 2002
Phu Pha Man National Park
Na Nong Tum, Chum Phae
Khon Kaen, Thailand 4217-
Not only that, but today (Xmas Day!) when I returned to Khon Kaen, struggling to see all the things I want in this part of Thailand before having to cross into Laos as my Laos visa expires, I went back to try and get the validity date extended a bit. They gave me an extra month to use the visa I paid for two months ago! NO consulate ever does that!
The Vietnamese consulate is at 65 Thanon Chatapadung (pick-up route 10), and though the staff were friendly, no one spoke any English despite the English language newspaper, the Bangkok Post, sitting on the official’s desk! With the aid of my Thai phrasebook, I found that a 30-day visa would cost me US$40 and take three days to issue. I was hoping it would be easier and cheaper than getting it in Bangkok, but that isn’t the case, so I’ll have to brave that horrible place once more!
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